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Friday, 02 August 2013 03:53


The Rise of Telangana

A high-voltage political battle has broken out on the Telangana statehood issue in Andhra Pradesh in the run-up to the 2014 general elections. M.R. Venkatesh and Saptarshi Bhattacharya of The Hindu Centre offer a detailed focus on the ground realities in Andhra Pradesh, examining the various strands of this highly complex and emotion-charged issue.

On a Monsoon-drenched morning, driving down the Tank bund road overlooking the huge and famous Husain Sagar Lake, the chill winds that mildly skimmed its waters gurgling as an irregular current around Buddha’s statue, instantly transported one to Chennai’s Marina beach.

For, the row of some 30-odd finely chiselled statues of mostly Telugu cultural icons and a few others who have contributed to their socio-cultural enrichment adorning one part of the necklace-like road formation, shared a disarmingly similar political sub-text scripted by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu erecting similar statues of Tamil cultural icons along the Marina sands in the run-up to the 1968 World Tamil Conference, barely a year after the DMK had stormed to power in Tamil Nadu.

The statues here – ranging from the ‘Himmat’ lady Rudramma Devi, Mehboob Ali Khan, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Alluri Seetharama Raju, Sir Arthur Cotton, saint-poet Thyagaraja, poet Sri Sri, Sultan Abul Hassan Tana Shah, Kandukuri Veerasalingam Pantulu to Siddhendra Yogi – were erected during the Telugu Desam Party (TDP)’s founder-leader N. T. Rama Rao’s Chief Ministerial tenure in Andhra Pradesh in the mid-1980s.

If they are seen as subtly showcasing regional Telugu pride, also a key political plank of the late actor-turned-politician, a disturbing turn about 25 years later was unmistakable: those very stone-carved human representations became the protestors’ targets in 2010 at the ugly height of another renewed agitation for creation of a ‘separate Telangana’.

Frustrated over the Central government delaying a decision on the statehood issue, which has now again become a political hot potato in the run-up to the Lok Sabha and possibly simultaneous Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh in 2014 – the last Assembly poll in the State was held in May 2009 – the pro-Telangana agitators had even uprooted some of those statues and hurled them into the Hussain Sagar to reject what they term the ‘hegemony’ of the political class of ‘Seemandhra (coastal Andhra plus Rayalaseema areas)’ over ‘Telangana’ region, the heart of erstwhile Hyderabad State till it merged with Andhra State to form united Andhra Pradesh in November, 1956.

The greater National debate should be on the defining principle of reorganisation of States - Dr. Parakala Prabhakar

Ground Zero in flux

The iconic Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy is no more but political circles in this historic cosmopolitan capital city of Hyderabad are unanimous that his tragic death in a helicopter crash in early September 2009 marked a decisive turn in the course of the Telangana row. This fact quietly stands out amidst the utter state of flux that marks ground zero here, amid heightened expectations that the Congress Working Committee could take a final call on the issue in the coming week or so.

Irrespective of whatever decision that unfolds, Telangana has already become the core election issue – even as indicated by the CNN-IBN-The Hindu-Election Tracker Survey 2013, conducted by Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), dramatically raising the stakes for all political parties across the State.

In what seems a repeat of the 2009 political turmoil, at the time of writing this report, 16 MLAs of the breakaway YSR Congress – who have rallied around his jailed son Jaganmohan Reddy – from ‘Seemandhra’ region who are opposing any unilateral decision by the Congress high command on the Telangana issue, and one senior Congress MLA, G. Veerasaiva Reddy, have already faxed their resignations to the Speaker, in an expression of solidarity for a united AP.

The myth of Sisyphus may be a tactical part of the political narrative here, as the often bitter, face-off between Telangana and Seemandhra area representatives intensify, to put pressure on the Central government either to take a decision or to put it off. But this time around, when they watch the boulder roll down the hill again as in that Greek myth, fresh by-elections may become redundant as the 2014 general elections are not far away.

It is thus a Catch-22 situation that haunts the Congress at the Centre – first having made a commitment in Parliament with the then Home Minister P.Chidambaram’s dramatic late night announcement of December 9, 2009, that the Centre would initiate the process of forming the State of Telangana, and then just a fortnight later, opting for ‘wide-ranging consultations’ as violence in AP escalated, making it impossible for the Assembly to adopt a resolution on Telangana.

We demand a reinstatement or a demerger of the geographical entity that was merged with the Andhra State back in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh. - K.T. Rama Rao

Time for the ‘T-State’ has come: TRS leader K. T. Rama Rao

At just 37 years, the articulate K. T. Rama Rao, MLA of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) from Karimnagar, the hotbed of the Telangana movement, and son of the party’s founder-leader, K. Chandrasekhar Rao, has everything going for him. A management graduate from the U.S., Mr. Rao poured out his convictions on the need for a Telangana State in an exhaustive, exclusive 90-minute interaction with M.R. Venkatesh and Sapatrshi Bhattacharya at his Banjara Hills residence in Hyderabad. Excerpts from the interview:

THC: Amidst the latest reports from New Delhi, do you think the time for creation of Telangana or the ‘T’ State has come?

K.T. Rama Rao: Absolutely. We believe that the Union Government has now reached a position where it has to take a call, and bite the bullet on Telangana. We believe it is time. And if I may also remind you, this is a promise that was made by the UPA government on the floor of the House in December 2009. The UPA government had categorically said that Telangana will be formed as the 29th State of the Indian Union.

The time is ripe. And we see that our brothers from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema have reconciled also. We can see that in spite of all the media speculation, there is neither much resistance nor apprehension as there was three years back. We believe Telangana has to be delivered at this juncture.

THC: The Srikrishna Committee has given six options on this issue. How realistically can the government go ahead on deciding this issue?

K.T. Rama Rao: I would like to remind you that the First States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) set up in 1953 had categorically recommended to the Indian government that Telangana should be formed or retained as a separate entity. So, it goes to show that this demand for the ‘T’ State is nothing new. And this has also been endorsed as a viable and justifiable demand. The Srikrishna Committee lost the confidence of the people by actually including what is called a secret chapter, which talks about how to suppress a democratic movement. Therefore, we refuse to accept what the Committee says; we would rather go by what the people of Telangana have said on numerous occasions in the form of numerous protests over the last five plus decades.

THC: What about the proposal to merge four districts of Rayalaseema, which faces the same problem of socio-economic backwardness with Telangana, to form ‘Rayala-Telangana’ as a via-media?

K.T. Rama Rao: Look, our demand is straight; we demand a reinstatement or a demerger of the geographical entity that was merged with the Andhra State back in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh. Under the guise of linguistic basis, Andhra State has prospered, but has exploited the Telangana region over the last five plus decades. So, today to come with a sort of via-media solution, whatever be the pretext, would not be acceptable to us. It will be Telangana as we see it today, with 10 districts and Hyderabad. That is the demand of the people and that is what the Union government should respect.

THC: But coastal Andhra people are concerned as they have contributed to the development of united AP with Hyderabad as a hub. Now, if you take away the heart, then what remains?

K.T. Rama Rao: If I may remind you, Hyderabad in 1947 was the fifth largest city and it is the fifth largest city in 2013 as well. So to say that Hyderabad has developed by being in a combined State is itself foolhardy; it is a statement that smacks of arrogance, a selfish, self-serving attitude and nothing more. The demographic expansion has happened here as it has happened elsewhere. So to say that Hyderabad’s status is controversial, is wrong. Hyderabad has become a global city with a cosmopolitan fabric. There is no reason why our fellow brothers from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra should be apprehensive. There is also no question of a new Union Territory coming up. The Chandigarh model will also not apply here as there is no geographical contiguity (with coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema) and today, instead of taking it as a challenge, they should take it as an opportunity to build a new, wonderful capital city. Look at Naya Raipur coming up in Chhattisgarh. The idea that Hyderabad could be a joint capital or a common capital (when the State is divided) is not pragmatic. I am sure the people of Andhra would want their administration to be much closer to them. When greater Maharashtra was bifurcated and Gujarat was carved out, the Gujarati investors who had invested heavily in Bombay had made the same demand. But then, did not Bombay remain in Maharashtra?

THC: Even if Telangana is conceded, what about the backlash from the other regions and fears of the T-State becoming a new breeding ground for Naxals?

K.T. Rama Rao: Because of a backlash from Seemandhra (that is Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra) that Telangana should not be given, it is really unfortunate. When people talk of a majority opinion to create Telangana, I would ask them, would you not need consensus for the continuation of status quo also? Would you rather crush them [people of Telangana], impose your will and ensure they continue in the status quo of a united set-up? Even at the time of the creation of ‘Vishalandhra’, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru likened it to a matrimonial alliance at the time of the merger. If this marriage works, great; if it doesn’t work, there is always an integral scope for divorce. The situation in the State today is that even the Congress party that rules the State is vertically divided on regional lines. As far as the Naxal menace is concerned, if we were able to contain it in Andhra Pradesh, we will definitely be able to contain it better in Telangana.

Again, to say creation of a new State will open a Pandora’s Box of demands for smaller States, is really insulting to us. We are not seceding from the country; we are asking [for Telangana] within the confines of Indian Constitutional guarantees. We have lot of affection for the people who have made Hyderabad their home. This is an emotional issue and that is why KCR in the last 12 years has done a tight-rope act. Let us divide as two States and let us both prosper.

Look at the example of the Ambani brothers. Eventually, when Telangana is born, Hyderabad has to be the economic engine that drives Telangana tomorrow. So we cannot have disturbances in Hyderabad of any kind. In fact, any kind of disturbance in Hyderabad will basically suffocate Telangana.

THC: You talk of political compulsions in a coalition era. But is there also not a regional element in your demand?

K.T. Rama Rao: No, the demand for Telangana will only strengthen India. It will showcase to the world that we are not narrow-minded, that we are not confined to this thinking of language-basis States, or to this thinking that we have selective identities. In fact, what we have been saying and what we have been propagating is the cosmopolitan fabric of Hyderabad and Telangana in general. At the same time, we are asserting our regional identity. To equate the Telangana movement with any other separatists’ movement will be an over-simplification.

The TRS factor

While Mr. Chidambaram’s statement led to K. Chandrasekhar Rao, founder-leader of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS), which is spearheading the pro-Telangana agitation for the last 12 years, then giving up his 11-day-old fast-unto-death, Andhra Pradesh plunged into a deeper political crisis. Despite the party’s flip-flops on the choice of allies – the TRS joined hands with the Congress in the run-up to the 2004 Lok Sabha polls but switched sides in 2009 to ally with the TDP after quitting the UPA-I Cabinet – this regional party which is now expected to even merge with the Congress should a new Telangana State materialise, has been able to maintain that momentum in that region fighting for statehood.

No wonder the TRS banners here are getting bigger and bolder, also projecting the TRS chief’s son, the suave management graduate, K. T. Rama Rao, who is now almost certain that the “Time for the T-State has come” and that the Telangana State will fall like a ripe apple on their laps (see box for The Hindu Centre’s interview with Rama Rao in Hyderabad). However, in the latest ongoing Panchayat polls in the State, the TRS has not done as well in its Telangana bastion as was expected.

All woo Hyderabad

The uncertainty plaguing Andhra Pradesh in the last three years in particular, which has dampened foreign investments coming into the high-tech city of Hyderabad, a dream of the former Chief Minister and TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu who is seen as AP’s ‘famous CEO’- is something that everyone wants to put an end to.

In fact, the TDP rule, first under NTR and later under Naidu, as exhaustively documented by the Justice B. N. Srikrishna-headed Committee “to examine the situation in Andhra Pradesh with reference to the demand for a separate State of Telangana, as well as maintaining the present status of a united Andhra Pradesh” and to recommend a plan of action and road-map on how to move forward on this vexed and highly complex issue, had substantially transformed the “landscape of Hyderabad”. Later, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy sought to build on it.

Not only is the present ‘Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA), covering a total area of 7,073 sq km and with a population of over 7 million, almost twice the size of Goa and even bigger than the National Capital Territory of Delhi, it also hosts several ‘strategic’ government establishments. Of these, 28 are related to national defence or strategic establishments, says the Committee report, adding, the structure of Hyderabad’s GDP “differs radically from the other regions”, marking out its economic development as different from the rest of Andhra Pradesh. Hence, neither Telangana nor Seemandhra people wish to lose Hyderabad.

The glitz and lights in Hyderabad’s shopping malls, multiplexes, restaurants, gems and jewellery shops may be returning, albeit slowly. The likes of the ‘Kakatiya mess’ – Andhra is famous for its messes with hot spicy vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals – in the city are daily milling with hundreds, largely youth, even as the fashionable restaurants flaunt their variety; “Biryani, Kebab, Indian, Chinese – great take-away from the ‘House of Perfect Food’.

But the Telangana issue yields no such straight take-aways. A brief look-back at its history shows it to be staggeringly multi-layered, enmeshed by historical, linguistic, cultural, natural resources – employment, administrative and political factors. So much so, the Srikrishna panel gave as many as six options that could help resolve this long-pending demand from 1945 in a way, since the Communists-backed peasants struggle against the ‘Zamindari’ rule and landlordism in Telangana region. The later Naxal movement in Andhra Pradesh had partly its genesis in this anti-Zamindari struggle, notes the report.

A long legacy of tussle

In a long legacy of tussle that goes back to the yearnings of the Telugu-speaking people in the erstwhile Madras Presidency wanting to have a state of their own to ensure their cultural and linguistic moorings, the Andhra State was first formed in October 1953, thanks to a fast-unto-death in old Madras, now Chennai, by Potti Sriramulu. Its Legislative Assembly then functioned from Kurnool, while the Andhra High Court was located in Guntur.

The pages of earlier history from the Nizam-ruled Hyderabad State becoming part of the Indian Union in September 1948 were to soon catch up with Andhra’s destiny, even as the latter’s formation triggered demands for creation of other linguistic States.

It led to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru reluctantly setting up the first ‘States Reorganisation Commission (SRC)’ under Justice S. Fazal Ali. And one of its outcomes was the birth of the present State of Andhra Pradesh, merging the Telugu-speaking ‘residuary part of erstwhile Hyderabad State’ with the then Andhra State, to make AP.

The hope then was that ‘Telangana’ would benefit by ‘Vishalandhra’ s development’. The merger was effected under what was termed a ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ that provided specific safeguards for the Telangana area including a Regional Council, which will protect its economic, cultural and political space that stemmed from the long legacy of Nizam rule in Hyderabad where Urdu was the official language. Coastal Andhra, on the contrary, under British rule in the Madras Presidency, had an edge with its English education.

However, as a new political structure was created in Andhra Pradesh, it was soon strained by internal regional Congress politics. In due course, nothing of the Gentlemen’s Agreement was kept, “a major sore point for the Telangana people,” which eventually led to their first major agitation in 1969. Even specific rules that required certain categories of employment in the Telangana area to be filled up only by residents of Telangana were not implemented.

Twists and turns in subsequent years

Mrs. Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister had a six-point formula replacing the earlier agreement and set up a separate ‘Planning and Development Board’ for each of the three regions of the State to ensure a United AP. This only reinforced the Telangana people’s apprehensions that they were ‘colonised’ by the better educated and politically savvy dominant castes from the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.

That fear persists even now, despite long spells of lull in the Movement since 1992, until rather strangely, the BJP sought to take up its cause with its ‘Warrangal resolution’ in 1997.






































In fact, the Srikrishna Committee’s report is a near-encyclopaedic analysis of all these factors till the latest phase of the Telangana agitation under the TRS banner since 2001. Interestingly, that was the time when the BJP-led NDA at the Centre under A.B. Vajpayee’s leadership unwittingly gave this movement an extra fillip by carving out three new States of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, from the bigger States Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar respectively premised on ‘smaller states ensure better inclusive development’.

Srikrishna Report

Read the full text of the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee Report here.

Justice Srikrishna’s six-fold path

After all its painstaking work, the Srikrishna Committee plumped for its sixth option. “On balance, it found the most workable option in the given circumstances, in the interests of the social and economic welfare of people of all the three regions” in the Panel’s sixth option that the State be kept united by simultaneously providing definite Constitutional measures for “socio-economic development and political empowerment of Telangana region”. This it emphasised, was different from merely maintaining the present status quo.

Though the “demand for separate Telangana has some merit,” the Committee categorically said to split the State only if it is “unavoidable and if the decision can be reached amicably amongst all the three regions”. In that eventuality, Hyderabad will continue to be a joint capital, “until a new capital for Seemandhra is created,” the panel said, ranking it as its second best option. The panel’s other four options included bifurcating the State into ‘Rayala-Telangana’ (merging four districts of backward Rayalaseema with the Telangana districts and Hyderabad being part of it) and ‘coastal Andhra’, and bifurcation with making an enlarged Hyderabad metropolis as a Union Territory, housing the capitals of both the divided units a la Chandigarh.

Alternatively, the State could be bifurcated with ‘Telangana’ and ‘Seemandhra’ having their own capitals and Hyderabad retained as a Union Territory, the Committee said. However, to maintain status quo – the panel’s ‘least favoured’ option – will only deepen the political crisis on both sides of the divide and could make the Telangana agitation even more emotional with the Maoist-extremist elements already joining hands with the TRS, it warned, adding, “some intervention is definitely required”.

It is to this last caveat that all the pro-Telangana activists and parties are now latching on. “The Centre at this point of time is quite serious to take a decision on Telangana,” feels the veteran Professor of Politics at Osmania University, Prof. Kothandaram, who heads the non-political Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Telangana Movement. “Until the Bill (to create Telangana State) comes to Parliament, we keep our fingers crossed as they (Centre) may still yield to coastal Andhra’s powerful business lobbies and go back yet again,” he said.

I am thinking of only one, single line; that is, nothing is acceptable except united Andhra Pradesh. - Dr. S. Shailajanath

"It is not a border issue, it is inter-dependability": AP Congress Minister Dr. S. Shailajanath

Unfazed by the pro-Telangana State proponents, Dr. S. Shailajanath, an unassuming but key Minister in the Kiran Kumar Reddy-led Congress government, in-charge of School Education, strongly reiterates the case for a united Andhra Pradesh. Excerpts from an exclusive interview he gave to M.R. Venkatesh in Hyderabad recently:

THC: Do you think the Congress can no longer delay its decision on Telangana, as it is now seen as a core issue in the run-up to the 2014 elections?

Dr. Shailajanath: No, I wouldn’t say that. The time has come to take a decision on the future of the State. It may be divided or be like this, unified. But it is definitely a core issue in the elections in both the areas. I agree with that. Even the recent survey by The Hindu [the CNN-IBN-The Hindu poll conducted by CSDS], says that 63% of the people [respondents] in Telengana are demanding for the ‘T’ State, while more than 70% in coastal Andhra and over 60% in Rayalaseema region are for a united State. So, people are eagerly waiting to see what happens. But the UPA government (in Delhi) stands for a united State; because this has been given by the Congress party those days; both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mrs. Indira Gandhi stood for a united State. Today also, a united State of Andhra Pradesh will bring more electoral benefits for the party.

THC: But there are reports that the government is favourably considering Telengana.

Dr. Shailajanath: No, these are just hearsay and some media reports. But till today, this minute, no responsible person [in the Central Government] has opened his/her mouth, for or against, on this issue.

THC: What is your stand on the Srikrishna Committee’s six options on the T-issue and which is the most practical to implement?

Dr. Shailajanath: They [the Committee] have already disclosed that it is the sixth option which can be implemented with the widest consensus. They have said that it should remain a united State, and whatever grievances Telengana region people have, we will sit across the table and address all those issues.

THC: But do you think the Congress will implement the Srikrishna Committee’s sixth option?

Dr. Shailajanath: I hope so, because the Srikrishna Committee was set up by the Congress-led UPA government only. Basically, problems related to formation/division of States are the concern of the Central government. So, it is a problem of governance, of the administration. It is in that backdrop that the Government of India appointed the Srikrishna Committee. It has given its report. Definitely, they will take a decision. Even our party in-charge of the State, Mr. Digvijaya Singh, has said that they will take into consideration the Srikrishna Committee report.

THC: What are your objections to the Telangana State? They say they are only asking for their original State with Hyderabad as the capital.

Dr. Shailajanath: You can’t reply to this in two or three words. We strongly believe in the State remaining united. Please go back and see what the scene was in those days when the two States were there. But it is only in Andhra Pradesh in the last four to five decades, that particularly the Dalits, the OBCs, weaker sections, Muslim minorities and women, have seen vast development in society, in both financial and social aspects. There is no doubt that this was possible only in a united Andhra Pradesh. They are also safer in this united State.

THC: But your own Congress MPs and MLAs from the two regions are divided over the Telangana issue.

Dr. Shailajanath: It is the greatness of the Congress party. It is the most democratically functioning party. So they give a choice to all the stakeholders to deliberate on the issue and speak their views. Ours is not a party like the Telugu Desam or Jaganmohan Reddy’s party. It is a democratic party under the great leadership of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi; we work democratically. So this dissent is the greatness of the Congress party.

THC: Will the Congress high command’s position be finally accepted by all?

Dr. Shailajanath: They are repeatedly saying that they will deliver a good result, a good end. I hope that the good end will always be a united Andhra Pradesh, because it is only in a few districts that the TRS problem is there, maybe not more than five districts. In the remaining, it is the sway of the Congress party and other opposition parties. So, I think sentiment alone cannot give a new State.

THC: Alternately, do you think the Rayala-Telangana proposal is workable?

Dr. Shailajanath: You see, at this time, I am thinking of only one, single line; that is, nothing is acceptable except united Andhra Pradesh.

THC: If the Centre concedes Telangana, how will the government cope with the backlash, for there is a fear that coastal Andhra will again erupt into lawless activities.

Dr. Shailajanath: Definitely, the recent history is there. On that day, Dec 9, 2009, after they [the Centre] announced [the intent to form a separate Telangana State], without any prodding or motivation from the leadership, for 10 to 15 days the entire coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema was paralyzed. If the time comes again, they will agitate more; definitely, whenever a threat comes to them [people of those two regions], they will react.

THC: But will your government act effectively if Parliament passes a law by majority?

Dr. Shailajanath: I am not going that far. We hope the State will remain like this only.

THC: You expect the status quo to remain?

Dr. Shailajanath: Yes, definitely. It is not that kind of a simple issue, or a border dispute or anything like that. It is really not a dispute. It is an issue of inter-dependability. The dependability is from region to region. For example, in Telengana, they are utilising more than 5,000 million units (MU) of power on an average till today. But they are producing only 2,000 to 3,000 MUs, like that. For their lift irrigation schemes in future, they will need another 5,000 to 7,000 MU of electricity. It is impossible... because the Godavari river is always beneath; they are upland. So, they are always on lift irrigation. Like this if you see, every party of the State is dependent on each other.

THC: How will you convince the people in Telangana that a unified Andhra Pradesh is better for all?

Dr. Shailajanath: This is not the first incident in the history of Andhra Pradesh. First, for the unity of the Telugu people, the first voice came from Telengana only; before the formation of the State of Andhra Pradesh after dividing from Tamil Nadu, we came into the Andhra State. From the region of Telengana they demanded and then both the Assemblies passed a resolution for unification. Later, we faced two agitations, ‘Jai Telengana’ and ‘Jai Andhra’. In 1971, I think, the Andhra people agitated more, staged a bigger agitation than this. But on that day Indira Gandhiji said, without any doubt, that the State must remain united. To give further clarifications, the great leader on that day in the Parliament made a speech on this State. So, this is not new to the State. But any problem, we will definitely sort out across the table.

Voices for and against Telangana

Nonetheless, in this phase of the agitation, “nearly 1,000 boys and girls have committed suicide,” Kothandaram said, adding, “after such long years of bitter struggle and humiliation, the people of Telangana feel separation and nothing else”. Refuting critics that Maoists activities will escalate if Telangana was given, as it would then become a haven for extremists from its border with Chhattisgarh, he said the Telangana Movement and the Maoists have “different social bases.” In fact, land reforms in Telangana may partly address the Maoists problems, he contended, adding, “this uncertainty is very bad”.

Things are not that simple, avers the CPI(M)’s State Secretary, B.V. Raghavalu, pointing out that dividing a State does not necessarily address the issues of under-development and socio-economic backwardness. In fact, “some of the most backward districts in Andhra Pradesh are the North coastal areas and Rayalaseema,” he said. “The division will harm federalism, secularism and dilution of democratic institutions,” he warned. The Marxist’s parent party, CPI, though, is for a separate Telangana for historical reasons, as all earlier agreements to empower that region have “failed”.

Significantly, the ‘Rayala-Telangana’ proposal has been shot down by all the political parties and even the Movement’s leaders. “Merging four districts of Rayalaseema with Telangana will be artificial, as the dominant caste from the former wield enormous political clout; we are only asking for a demerger; restore the old State of Hyderabad with the geographical area of Telangana,” argued K. Narayana, State Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI). At the other end, “we are firmly for a United Andhra”, asserts Dr. S. Shailajanath, senior Minister in the Kiran Kumar Reddy-led Congress government. (See box for an interview with the Minister, who is hopeful of a good decision by the Centre.)

Even a key Islamic party in Hyderabad, where 35% of the population are Muslims, the ‘Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), led by its articulate UK-trained lawyer, keen cricketer and MP, Asaduddin Owaisi, strongly pitched for a United Andhra Pradesh before the Srikrishna panel. “Even after Independence, Hyderabad as a State continued for a while until it was trifurcated (during linguistic reorganisation) when areas with Marathi-speaking people went to Maharashtra, Kannada-speaking areas to the then Mysore State and the remaining that was left with us was Telangana. That itself was a big loss for us in the aftermath of the Operation-Police,” Owaisi said. Moreover, dividing the State will later only benefit the BJP in Telangana, as the TRS and the TDP would post-division lose their relevance there, he reasoned.

If the growth of ‘communal’ forces and fears of Naxalites stepping up their activities continue to be strong arguments against creation of a separate Telangana – the BJP has already promised to deliver Telangana if its alliance came to power in Delhi in 2014 according to its State President G. Kishen Reddy – there are other radically contingent factors too that discount the Telangana protagonists’ case.

For instance, knowledgeable sources here are equally appalled by the Centre’s oversight when TRS Chief Chandrasekhar Rao went on an indefinite fast in 2009. “The TRS boss was only demanding deletion of clause 14-F of the Recruitment Rules to the Police Department to make Hyderabad a free zone, but the Centre bang announced Telangana formation,” said a veteran journalist here who did not wish to be named. The Chief Minister, Kiran Kumar Reddy made this point to the Congress Core Committee recently, he said. The PCC Chief, Botcha Sathyanarayana also told the party high command that in the event of a decision to concede Telangana State, “Hyderabad must be the common capital for at least 25 years like Hong Kong and Macau”, to ensure the safety of people from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema who have settled in Hyderabad for generations now. “There are serious water-sharing issues too that, if ignored by the Centre, could spell the death-knell of farming in the Godavari and Krishna delta areas, India’s rice bowl,” the journalist added.

All these show how exceedingly complex the problems are in granting statehood to Telangana, though historically its position is uniquely different. “They (the Congress high command) are not seeing the people’s interests or view; they are only looking at the political angle in the run-up to the 2014 elections,” remarked N. Nageshwara Rao, TDP MP who is also in-charge of its Parliamentary party.

Ironically, though the TDP itself is for Telangana, his remarks oddly squares with meta-level political assessments of the latest developments by almost all the political parties in the State, including the Pradesh Congress, amid a perception that the Congress bosses in Delhi want to hastily push through a ‘solution’ on fear of losing ground to the breakaway YSR Congress and others. Is ‘Telangana’ a challenge that still needs patient tackling, or an opportunity to be encashed for the UPA-II, has thus become a million dollar question.

Civil society’s angst

“Whether they agree to Telangana or not, please reach a conclusion soon; why are you taking the lives and livelihood of us poor,” asked Shankar, an auto-rickshaw driver, as he negotiated past numerous potholes on the road and the relentless traffic snarls. He was referring to the numerous ‘bandhs’ and violence that besiege Hyderabad ever so frequently, putting off visitors to this city in recent times.

Upon some more prodding, Shankar, who hails from a family of landless agricultural labour in Shamshabad, where the impressive, new Rajiv Gandhi International Airport has come up, slowly opens up: “If Telangana happens, at least our children will get jobs. That is my understanding. Right now, all the jobs are cornered by the people of Andhra region.” Srinivas, another auto-rickshaw driver who lives in the eastern suburb of Uppal, echoes the same feeling. Water scarcity shut off his farming, forcing him to drive an auto-rickshaw. “We are over the brink; we should ensure at least a better future for our children. That is why we want Telangana,” he asserts.

These two stories are but small slices of a much larger picture, but they point to a common thread that runs through the pro-Telangana sentiment – employment and other basic necessities of life like water. However, Telangana “is not only about jobs,” says Srikanth Rao, a research scholar hailing from Medak district, at the 95-year-old Osmania University, now the hotbed of the Movement. How did this feeling of sub-regionalism take roots in the campus?

“Most of us are from rural areas and have seen the disparity from up close,” says Rudra Reddy, a teaching faculty in Nizam College and a research scholar at the University. “While drawing up schemes, like the ones for irrigation and water supply, Telangana region has always been given step-brotherly treatment,’’ he emphasised. The benefits of granting Telangana statehood “will not percolate down immediately, but in the long run, we hope that things would be better,” he added.

Sure, skewed income distribution is the underlying premise here. But “the greater National debate should be on the defining principle of reorganisation of States,” counters social scientist and an Integrationist, Dr. Parakala Prabhakar. “Should we have a relook at the linguistic principle and find an effective alternative,” he asked. If the UPA conceded the separate Telangana State demand, other statehood movements like Gorkhaland, Bodoland, Vidarbha and Bundlkhand would gain credence, Dr. Prabhakar warned, adding, “Telangana today is a political game.” In fact, he attributed the fringe parties riding high on people’s sentiments on this issue “to turn it into a movement”, to the Congress party’s ambiguity over Telangana in the past decade.

Going a step further is N. Jayaprakash Narayan, President of the Lok Satta Party, who says that the demand for Telangana throws up several dilemmas before the running dispensation in New Delhi. They, in fact, are an offshoot of the ground realities, as was reflected in a survey by ‘Lokniti-CSDS’, a Delhi based Social Science research institution, in Andhra Pradesh in 2011. The survey revealed that support for Telangana is up to 50% within that region, while a huge 90% of people in the rest of Andhra Pradesh want the State to remain united. Will it ring a bell in New Delhi’s power corridors?




Last Updated on Friday, 02 August 2013 04:08